We Have Learned By Sad Experience…

Photo by Mike Hansen

I am wondering about my connection and involvement in an organization.

I have devoted much energy, time, and resources to this organization.

I have donated significant funds to it.

I have sacrificed much for it. I have endured criticism, gossip, misunderstanding, judgement and condemnation from those who do not understand or agree with this organization.

There are those close to me who just can’t understand why I would stay connected to this organization.

It is one where I have found community, support, inspiration, and learned about unconditional love.

I have served in it alongside people who have become like family to me.

My connection to it goes back almost to its beginning.

And, no, in this case I am not referring to the LDS Church.


Several times, in recent years, I have been concerned with changes in this non-church organization. I am still inspired by the mission statement. But there has been a change in how leadership functions, and a shift in how resources are used to support the mission statement.

Many of the people who run this organization have experienced dissonance from past experiences with church leaders who have abused their leadership position, who have demanded loyalty for loyalty’s sake, or members who have not been inclusive, or Christlike, or who not lived in accordance with the Church mission statement. It is difficult to wrestle with that dissonance. A significant portion of these people choose to distance themselves, or sever connection with the Church, because of these painful experiences.

I can understand why people would choose to do this, and do not think there is a right or wrong way to work through dissonance. It is individual for each of us, and I would hope we can learn to listen and support each other in our individual journeys, no matter where we are led.

I wish I could say that when any of us choose to leave an organization where we have experienced pain, trauma and dissonance, we are able to escape all components of the pain, and we will no longer encounter that kind of dissonance or abuse or hypocrisy.

But the behavior that might trigger this trauma, or pain, or abuse – this is not a religious problem, or LDS problem, or a specific organization problem.

It is a human problem.

And all organizations are created and run by humans.

I am human.

I have tried to remember that when I am told by someone in this organization that I have not shown adequate loyalty for loyalty’s sake to someone in leadership, and then removed from my position because of that.

I have tried to remember that when my volunteer efforts are shut down, my voice silenced, and my contributions denied.

I have tried to remember that when financial transparency is eliminated, and I learn that my donations have not been used where I had stipulated.

I have tried to remember that when term limits for leaders are removed, when members no longer have a say in leadership, and there is no accountability.

I try to remember that when some of the most valuable, knowledgeable and capable voices are minimized, diminished and removed.

Even with the practice I have had in doing so with other organizations, I have been shaken at how much more intense these experiences have been with this one.

And I consider again the verse from one of the most powerful sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. In section 121, verse 39 – “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men (it would be nice to blame this completely on men, but I need to be more accurate here and say “human”), as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

This is not the only non-church organization where I have or am seeing unrighteous dominion happening. I am an activist. I am around political groups and legislatures all the time. But it is usually not surprising to have to deal with it there.

We all want to assume that groups where we have sought support, and advocacy – where we have devoted much effort in trying to make a difference – we want things to be different. We hope things will be different.

This is a reminder that we do learn from sad experience.

We can leave organizations over and over and over. And we are still human. We are still associating with humans. There will be abuse, and hypocrisy, and trauma, and pain.

I don’t think there is only an option of leaving, or staying.

I hope we can learn how to watch for warning signs, in ourselves and others, when abuse of power or authority is taking over groups, or organizations. I hope we can learn from our own sad experience of how destructive this is, and be willing to confront ourselves, and each other in ways that can call us back to what inspires us, back to what can make a difference to a shared purpose, even when it might mean giving up some authority or control.

What if we consider an option of transforming an organization?

Again, I am not saying that is the best, or correct, or right option for everyone. Or for every organization.

There are plenty of organizations which were once inspiring, but have become ineffective or irrelevant when numbers, money or pride became more important than people.

I have had to shift how I function within various organizations. Some I have stepped away from, maybe because they have changed, or I have changed. There is nothing wrong with that.

Ultimately, the value of any group – of 3, or 7,000, or 16 million – comes down to the actions of its members. Even the most powerful leaders (no matter how righteous, or unrighteous) will be gone at some point. Members who are inspired by the mission or purpose of the group will focus on what inspires them, work to align the group to that and shift away from abusive actions, or they will find new ways, and possibly new places where they can contribute to what inspires them.

I have been contributing to what I found inspiring about this organization in new ways, and in new places, trying to make a difference where I create belonging. It is not what I expected, but transformation is not always predictable.

And, even though the human problems continue to bring sad experience, I wouldn’t give up any of the countless, indescribable, wonderful experiences I have because of the humans in my life.

That is what has and continues to transform me.

I am grateful there is no escaping that.


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3 Responses

  1. Katie Rich says:

    Thank you, Jody. This has given me much to think about this morning.

  2. Mortimer says:

    Thank you for this optimism, for your strong apologist swing at the bat.

    And thank you for the acknowledgement that any human organization has its dirty secrets. Working in academia, I’ve been horrified at the many injustices that occur- the biased, political PhD committees with senile tenured curmudgeons that unjustly ruin some talented students’ professional lives, the stories of rotten professors, rotten students, the backstabbing and plagiarism, the many lawsuits juggled by university counsel addressing what else? The Illegal activities at every campus. The nepotism, good ol’ boys club, the deals made on golf courses, the disgusting quid pro quo’s involving banks and ghastly gobs of money, or worse. There are better campuses and worse ones, but every campus has its skeletons. Likewise, every church.

    I know there is a hyper-vigilance by our church leaders in steering the ship, and its flaws come primarily from a over-protectionism. from a crusade of obligation. Our blind spots emerge from this fervor. And one day, women and many others currently disenfranchised will be able to fully participate as we all work toward our millennial goals.

  3. Terri says:

    Thank you. It’s good for me to remember that all groups, countries and church’s have flaws.

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